Photoshop is a fantastic program and is used by many web designers to handle some of their most important web design needs. It’s powerful, easy-to-use, and feature-rich. Most (if not all) design schools use Photoshop to teach new designers the trade. And like Google, it has become both a verb and the industry standard.
However, Photoshop is expensive. Since Adobe did away with Creative Suite and moved everything to their Creative Cloud platform, you’d be on the hook for $9.99 per month to be able to use Photoshop. And while this monthly subscription means you would always have each new version of Photoshop and its expanded set of tools and tricks, it also means you have a never-ending bill. For many people, buying in to the Adobe Creative Cloud and paying the monthly service fee just isn’t in their budget.
Photoshop can also be a bit overwhelming, particularly for a user who doesn’t need all the photography-related tools and doo-dads. It does A LOT, which is great, but learning how to use all the tools and remembering all the shortcuts can be a daunting task. It can feel a little on the clunky side as well, at least for those of us that aren’t using Photoshop for it’s original purpose – to edit photos. So really, at the heart of the issue is that Photoshop was never intended to be used for web design, and as a result, there are some issues that make it a less-than-attractive option for such tasks.
In today’s post, we highlight three types of Photoshop alternatives. There are photo-editing programs similar to Photoshop in their function, but provide other benefits, such as being free and easier to use. These are great for web designers that just need a go-to photo-editing suite to create and edit photos and graphics for their designs.
Other alternatives are graphic and interface design-focused, and allow users to create amazing web-based graphics. Still others are website builders that allow you to do much, much more than just create and edit graphics, photos, and wireframes. Website builders give you the power to take a website from concept to completion all on your own.
With that being said, let’s begin!
Photo Editing Software
Sometimes you just need to do a quick edit of a photo or graphic for one of your designs. Rather than going out and buying Photoshop, there are a few excellent alternatives that give you virtually the same functionality and tools as you’d find in Photoshop.
GIMP is extremely easy to use as well, particularly if you spring for the version of the program that mirrors Photoshop’s look and feel. Color correction, cloning, channel mixing, painting, and selection tools are among the many features you will find in GIMP. File conversion is no problem either, since GIMP offers several popular formats, including .PNG, .JPG, .GIF, and .TIFF. GIMP even syncs with Adobe Bridge for easy organization of your photos and graphics.
The Upside: It’s Free!
The Downside: Like Photoshop, GIMP is limited in its applicability and usefulness for some web design tasks.
The cool thing about Pixlr is that it is offered in a number of formats. You can use the web-based version, so there is no need to constantly update and install new software. You can also download the program for offline usage. There are even iOS and Android versions so you can get straight to work on your mobile phone whenever creativity strikes.
Pixlr can be used to edit existing images – just import them into the program and edit away – or you can create brand new images from scratch. Although it is not a good alternative for print designers because of its format, size, and resolution limitations, web designers can easily create web graphics and banners using Pixlr.
The desktop interface looks a lot like Photoshop, with the canvas flanked by tools on the left, menus at the top, and layers, history, and other essential windows on the right. If you’ve gotten used to that layout, Pixlr should be an easy switch, at least from a viewing standpoint. The mobile version is similarly easy to use, with large canvas areas for squint-free viewing and a host of powerful editing tools right at your fingertips.
The Upside: Web-based, so no need to purchase and download updates.
The Downside: Like Photoshop and GIMP, Pixlr is limited in its relevance for some web design needs.
Hailed by some as the best alternative to Photoshop for graphic design and photo editing needs, Affinity Photo offers users an incredibly powerful program built to handle the complex tasks facing today’s designers – at least those designers that have a Mac.
While Affinity Photo is free, it is definitely not a cut-rate program. To the contrary, it actually offers a number of features that might make it better than Photoshop.
To begin with, Affinity Photo has processing management tools that other Photoshop alternatives lack. There is RAW processing, lab color, and end-to-end CMYK editing capabilities. What’s more, there are professional-grade adjustments too – including advanced retouching, frequency separation editing, and live blend modes.
If that wasn’t enough, Affinity Photo is built on modern architecture – in contrast to Photoshop, which still relies on 25-year-old technology. As a result, Affinity Photo is blazing fast. There are no annoying lags between making an adjustment and seeing it – everything happens in real time.
The Upside: Free (at the moment) and lighting fast – no spinning wheels of death!
The Downside: Only available on Mac, and only free for a limited time.
Sketch gets a category unto itself because there’s really nothing else like it. Sketch is a Mac-based app that is specifically designed for designers. In that regard, Sketch has a leg up on Photoshop because its tools and workflow cater not to photographers, but specifically to the needs of people designing icons, graphics, and websites. It is lightweight, super fast, and incredibly easy to use.
Users of Sketch can create multiple artboards and pages to suit their needs. There are also the handy symbols and shared styles features, which allow you to make changes to one element, which is then applied to all instances of that element in the design. So, if you change the color of the header on one page, the program will change the color of every other header automatically if you so wish.
Even better is that the app uses vector Boolean operations that help you create highly complex designs. Because Sketch is vector-based, making scalable graphics is a breeze. And you don’t have to make any tweaks by hand – Sketch will automatically adapt vectors to changes in size, layout, and style.
The Upside: Sketch is a powerful, vector-based program that has designer-centric features that allow you to focus on your work.
The Downside: Only available for Mac.
If you’re looking for an all-in-one solution for your image editing, graphics creation, and website design needs, consider utilizing a website builder. Website builders offer all the advantages of Photoshop (and it’s similar programs) in addition to web design and development tools that allow you to take care of the entire process of design creation to deployment, all within the same program. Website builders are built to design and deploy websites – something Photoshop was never intended to do. So they represent an interesting choice on this list, because they offer so much more in the way of design-specific features that the other alternatives on this list do not.
Sure, we’re partial to IM Creator, but the features it offers are undeniable. Start from a template and customize it to meet your clients’ needs, or start from the very beginning and create a brand new design on your own. The intuitive drag and drop tools allow you to place text, photos, videos, and graphics wherever you want on each page. Put simply, IM Creator allows you to focus on design because you don’t have to worry about coding, SEO, and all the other stuff people sometimes expect a designer to know and do. With no knowledge of web development whatsoever, you can create a stunning website for your client!
IM Creator also integrates handy features like SEO optimization and Google Fonts. Every site built with IM Creator is web standards compliant and looks great on all platforms as well. With e-mail, domains, and web hosting also available, IM Creator truly is a one-and-done platform for your website design needs. It’s even free to try! You can create your entire site design without ever having to pay a penny, then when you’re ready, you can upgrade to a premium account to get your site published. The best part is that with IM Creator, you can brand yourself not just as a web designer, but a website creator, and offer complete website solutions for your clients.
The Upside: IM Creator helps you handle total site design and development, from start to finish.
The Downside: None!
Our purpose here isn’t to knock Photoshop. It is definitely an excellent tool to have if you’re a designer. But there are plenty of alternatives that, for financial reasons, workflow needs, or applicability to web design, could suit your situation better.
What Photoshop alternatives have you tried and loved? Leave a comment below and tell us all about it!